French Flavours at the Galvin Green Man
'Dreamy,’ my partner replies as the waitress asks us if everything is ok. I look up, surprised. Not at her, but him. This from a man who only really shows emotion when Spurs win or lose. A side dish of baby-food smooth buttery mashed potato has caused this change. His ‘dreamy’ mash is accompanied by a plate of 24-hour braised pork belly with carrots, bok choi and a soft, flavoursome pork croquette, so yummy it deserves to be the star of the show.
I could wax as lyrical about my own skate wing (a piece of fish as large as a small stingray) with beurre noisette, capers, new potato, cucumber and herb salad, lemon juice and plentiful parsley. The starters had set things off well. Both wanting the same dish – a beautifully-arranged plate of beetroot-cured salmon with wasabi and pea shoots, (pictured, right) - I took the second choice, a creamy ball of mozzarella with castelfranco, a pretty red-flecked Italian lettuce leaf I'd never heard of either. Again, both were equally delightful.
The Michelin inspectors obviously agree with us as Galvin Green Man was recently awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand (the more budget-friendly version of the star-rating system) and it was the only venue in Essex to get this. It was also voted Best Pub in East of England during the final of the Pub & Bar Awards.
It’s not really surprising to me. We visited Galvin Green Man this time last year just after the launch when the ethos was gastropub albeit in a setting less spit and sawdust pub and more rustic chic. Some customers arrived expecting the French gourmet cuisine served in the Michelin-starred brother’s London establishments, so to meet in the middle you’ll now find Herefordshire snails (why not Essex snails?) and heartier dishes such as cassoulet of duck á la Maison.
Sometimes one element stands out in a meal but here each course was equal to the last. Puddings aren’t strictly necessary when you’ve already eaten two courses but who cares? My baba aux rum with sweet Chantilly cream was less like the 70s staple and more like the original (strangely also beloved of the Neopolitans) consisting of a large sponge in the shape of a chef’s hat drenched with rum and topped with sweet cloud-like cream. The tarte tatin with crème fraiche was equally as, well, dreamy, to steal a line. The service is informal but attentive and that’s the way it should be in a place like this.
In summer the bucolic riverside setting among rolling fields will be visible and may lure guests for a walk to burn off the indulgence, however in winter two wood burners in the open-plan restaurant area keep things snug. Upstairs there are private dining spaces sponsored by companies such as Adnams regional brewery and Marriage's flour, where families come to share Sunday relaxed lunches free to let their children be as noisy as they like. Downstairs there’s a more traditional pub area and you can pretty much each from any of the menus in any area, which is a flexibility that will always go down well.
Galvin Green Main is only 15 minutes from Chelmsford Station and barely an hour from East London so a good excuse to head further East. But if you like your Galvin with a bit more sun you can head to the Middle East as there’s a new outpost in Dubai.